Carpinteria City Council is working on an urgent ordinance that would prevent new chain restaurants and stores from opening in the city in attempts to curb rent increases and keep the small town charm of the community.
On Monday, May 16, City Council members discussed local regulations to restrict “formula businesses,” defined as chain stores and restaurants with standardized services and features that make them identical to their other businesses elsewhere.
According to Carpinteria Community Development Director Steve Goggia, regulating these businesses is necessary because they squeeze out smaller local businesses. This can lead to increased rent prices, he said, and “mom-and-pop” shops that serve the community end up hurt.
The goal of this ordinance is to maintain the unique character of the community, especially in the downtown areas of Carpinteria, also known as the “Downtown T.” City leaders hope restricting new formula businesses would protect local store diversity as well as foster small businesses that serve the needs of the residents rather than tourists.
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Warner Ebbink, Carpinteria resident and owner of local restaurant Little Dom’s Seafood, spoke at the meeting. Before living in Carpinteria, Ebbink was a 10-year resident of Ojai, where there are complete bans on fast food chains.
“What I’ve seen in Ojai, especially lately, has been an explosion of young entrepreneurs doing great things there,” Ebbink said, adding that these small businesses would not have been possible if chains were to establish themselves in the community.
Ebbink said that many of his neighbors in Carpinteria shared his sentiments of wanting to protect new, small local businesses in the “Downtown T zone,” and he conveyed a sense of urgency about the pieces of commercial real estate downtown, worth anywhere from $3 million-$9 million dollars, that he said would soon be changing hands.
“That’s not gonna be a mom-and-pop business that goes in there,” Ebbink said, “because they can not pay the rent to the person who owns that. Period.” Without restrictions, chain stores with no investment in the local community would occupy these spaces.
Existing regulations in the city don’t directly address or restrict formula businesses. The discussed ordinance, and what exactly qualifies as a ”chain business,” would be decided by the Carpinteria City Council members on a case-by-case basis according to what businesses fit with the city’s goals and character.